How are you? It’s been so long. A little more than eight months, to be exact. I’ve thought about you a lot. Back in August, I was so excited to leave. I didn’t think you had much more to offer me. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t satisfied with myself and blamed you for my inability to break out of my shell. I wanted to leave and see the world, to find a different, exciting, and passionate self.
And so I did. I experienced a whole new world, and I changed.
Throughout the past eight months, I’ve been constantly reflecting and thinking about the usefulness of my presence in my volunteer placement. To be honest, a lot of the times I actually didn’t feel that useful at all. A lot of the times, especially towards the beginning, I just sat on a chair off to the side of the classroom watching as the teacher gives class. During English classes was definitely when I felt like I could contribute the most—I jumped up at every opportunity I got when it seemed appropriate for me to get up and help. Even then, it was difficult finding the right balance between giving useful help and creating a dependency on my help. This was more apparent when I was in the first grade classrooms: some kids were brilliant and only needed a small clue to continue on their own, whereas others were completely clueless and lost all of the time. This got better as I got to know the children better, but I also had to learn how to see past the mischievous manipulation of some of the kids (a lot of them fake not understanding something so that I would help them and are REALLY good at it).
With the last month of my time here in Madrid approaching, I’m constantly thinking about what I want to accomplish with the short time I have left. Yet, I have realized that I’ve accomplished so much this year. I have been able to switch the country I live in, my home, family, and way of life to the extent that now I feel totally normal living here in Madrid. My Spanish is better than ever before and I feel very comfortable speaking it all day with everyone. I’ve put a lot of work into making activities for the girls at the Montoya home and do my best to help every afternoon I spend with them. I’ve begun giving English classes at the Neighborhood Association of Ventilla and have taken it upon myself to spread information about the workshops offered and find someone to help us with the English classes in the afternoons. Through traveling I’ve seen more of the world and in doing so have made meaningful connections and friendships in Madrid and all over Europe. I know the district of Tetuan and the center of Madrid very well and have been a tour guide for friends who have visited. I have become immersed in the Spanish way of life (not sure how I’ll go back to eating meals at the normal time) and have learned how to make some Spanish dishes!
Two weeks ago, Valencia celebrated their world famous Fallas/Falles festival. I, along with my friend from back home, Eddie, headed to Valencia to partake in the celebrations. We stayed with Carmen, a friend of mine studying in Valencia, and her roommates who also invited a number of their friends. Thanks to Carmen, and her friends, Eddie and I were able to enjoy Falles through a somewhat local perspective; although they are not from Valencia, they have now lived and studied there for several years. Falles felt like a kick start to the last two months of my time in Spain, providing a spark that made March fly by, leaving me and my fellow fellows, trying to fill every weekend, day, and minute with a meaningful and new experience.